GOP gives up on trying to push Akin out

September 20, 2012

In about 28 hours, the Republican Party will be, for all intents and purposes, stuck with Todd Akin.

The Missouri Senate candidate has shown no signs of bowing to pressure from the national party to get out of the race after his controversial comment about "legitimate rape" turned the race on its head.


(Associated Press)

And though the party initially held out hope that Akin would change his mind at some point over the past month, it now appears that ship has sailed.

The technical deadline for being able to replace Akin on the ballot, if he dropped out, is Tuesday. But because military ballots must be sent by Saturday, the effective drop-dead date is close-of-business Friday. After that point, Akin's name would still appear on military and overseas ballots and a replacement nominee would not.

In addition, Akin would need to get a judge's permission to withdraw (which could pose problems on such short notice), and he would be responsible for the cost of re-printing any ballots that have already been printed — a cost that might be significant.

So really at this point, there's no reason to believe anything will change, and Republicans, after using as much leverage as they could muster, have begun accepting their fate.

"God has spoken: Todd is running," said one Missouri Republican strategist, granted anonymity to speak candidly. "Our loins are girded."

Shortly after Akin's comment blew up, calls for him to exit the race began to snowball. Republicans urged him — both publicly and privately — to step aside, they pledged to not spend any money on his behalf, and they declared the seat lost if he stayed in the race.

Five current and former former Missouri Republican senators even joined forces in asking Akin to back out.

But aside from some isolated initial reports that he was weighing his options — something his campaign denied — there has been little indication that he has seriously considered dropping out. And at this point, it's not clear why anything would change at the last minute.

Akin has a fundraiser with Newt Gingrich scheduled for Monday and also just launched a new ad and Web site on women's issues. His campaign also sent a fundraising e-mail Thursday morning attacking National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.) for deserting his campaign. (Sample: "...the Washington insiders and Party Bosses were wrong about Rubio, wrong about Rand Paul, and they’re just as wrong about Todd Akin.")

These are not the moves of someone who is about to succumb to the pressure.

"Never. No chance. Not going to happen," Akin adviser Rick Tyler said when asked if there was any thought of dropping out.

Akin, as we've written before, is not a party establishment guy or even really a tea party guy. He's a social and religious conservative who is largely unencumbered by the things that bind many other big-time candidates to their party leaders.

Thus, it has been hard for the party to find anything in the way of leverage.

The question from here is whether Akin can compete on his own. We won't know until mid-October how much money he's raised in the last month, but he's had very little in the way of an advertising campaign and, at one point, failed to pay for the second half of an ad buy. (The campaign said at the time that it was merely adjusting its ad strategy.)

While a tea party candidate could raise money from the conservative base, Akin doesn't really fit the mold. And the political and financial power of the religious conservative community has waned in recent years.

Polling since the "legitimate rape" flap shows Akin remains within single digits of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and he even led in a Republican poll this week (a poll that also happened to show Mitt Romney leading in the state by an astounding 20 points). But it's going to be hard to recover his good name if he can't raise money. And right now, he's getting pounded on the airwaves, with nobody backing him up.

And at this point, Republicans basically consider the Missouri seat a lost cause.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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